4197

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Two Cast Brass Gold Dust Weights in the Form of Sandals

Ashanti or Asante People, Ghana
18th century

length (approx): 6.6cm, width: 2.5cm, height: 2cm

Sold

Provenance

private collection, London.

This pair of cast brass gold weights is in the form of traditional sandals worn by Ashanti kings, nobles and others. They are cast realistically and comprise elegant, small sculptures in their own right.

Personal weights such as these were used in Ghana and elsewhere in West Africa. Principally, small weights were used to weigh gold dust which became the currency used to settle everyday transactions. Each party to any transaction would typically use their own weights – largely because one could trust one’s own weights in the absence of any government certified weighing system. The negotiating process not only would include the cost in gold dust of the items being transacted over but a comparison of weights, debate over the scales used, and the purity of the gold dust (gold often was adulterated with brass filings). Even transactions as rudimentary as buying vegetables in a street market necessitated this process.

Gold weights were cast in brass or bronze. They were used by the Akan who occupy a large part of West Africa including parts of Ghana and the Ivory Coast and include many sub-ethnic groups such as the Baule and the Asante (Ashanti). Gold became an important commodity which gave rise to Ghana’s old colonial name of the Gold Coast. The region was known as the Gulf of Guinea, and in England, a gold coin worth twenty-one shillings became known as a guinea (Phillips, 2010).

The pair here have a rich, varying patina.

See Phillips (2010, p, 168) for a related example.

References

Falgayrettes-Leveau, C., et al, Ghana: Hier et Aujourd’hui/Yesterday and Today, Musee Dapper, 2003.

Phillips, T., African Goldweights: Miniature Sculptures from Ghana 1400-1900, Edition Hansjorg Mayer, 2010.

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